Sharjah Biennial 11 artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah’s new three-screen installation The Elephant in the Room - Four Nocturnes premiered as part of the inaugural Ghana Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale on 7 May 2019. Using Africa’s declining elephant populations as its narrative spine, The Elephant in the Room - Four Nocturnes is staged as a set of impressionist meditations on fugitive time(s), improper light and the unnamed scandal. The work questions mortality, loss, fragmented identity, mythology and memory through poetic visuals that survey the landscape of African cultural heritage.
Co-commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Ghana, Sharjah Art Foundation and Smoking Dogs Films, with support from Lisson Gallery the work includes scenes shot on location in Sharjah.
Speaking about his experience in Sharjah, Akomfrah said, ‘Sharjah has been an extremely significant place for my work over the last 5 years. The epic landscapes of the Emirate, which features both coastline and desert, provide the perfect backdrop for my work. Sharjah Art Foundation has supported and shown great trust for the vision I’ve had for all my projects and the support of the team on the ground has been invaluable.’
The work forms the third part of a trilogy of films, including Vertigo Sea (2015)—which premiered at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and is part of the Sharjah Art Foundation collection—Purple (2017), that explore the complex and intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and our destruction of ourselves.
The inaugural Ghana Pavilion, titled Ghana Freedom, is designed by architect Sir David Adjaye and includes the works of six artists, Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Lynette Yiadom Boakye Ibrahim Mahama and Selasi Awusi Sosu, all who are rooted in Ghana and its disasporas. The pavilion features large-scale installations, sculptures, paintings, photography and films, on view in Arsenale, Venice until 5 October 2019.